Maxine had spent the rest of the day at WPX, getting ahead with her work.
Neither Theo nor Luc had made any comment about Luc's behavior the previous
day, and seeing them acting more or less normally, she'd believed the problem
had been smoothed over. She had no idea about what was going on elsewhere. This
blissful state of ignorance was not to last for much longer.
When she arrived home, she found a surprise visitor.
"Dad! What are you doing here?"
"Well, there's a nice welcome," Rufus Pepperday grinned.
"I didn't mean it like that, Dad. I just... Look, is everyone ok at
"Everyone in the family yes. For the moment."
"Rusty has some information you should know-- would want to know. It's
bad though. Very bad."
"Well spit it out, Dad. I suppose it's something to do with his
fucking Warrior friends?"
"Yes it is, and watch your language, young lady."
"What, like you do?"
Rufus raised a hand to acknowledge the hit and quirked a quick smile.
"You could've turned out a lot worse, I guess."
"So what does Isaac have to say for himself?"
"That there are new Warriors in town who are looking to round up
homosexuals and kill them so the Rapture can come."
"And Isaac passed this on because? How does this affect me?"
"He thought you should know because one of your friends is
"Will you stop calling him Isaac. Rusty's here, by the way,
visiting Barny and Dido. And he joined the Warriors because I asked him to,
dammit! He was happy to go along because he enjoys the cloak-and-daggery stuff
just like I do."
Maxine did a double-take at that.
"You didn't know, did you?" Rufus chuckled. "You really
hadn't worked it out? I expected it to go over your mother's head, but not
yours. For an intelligent woman, you can be a bit dense sometimes.
Maxine laughed. "You know, Ash said pretty much the same thing-- Oh
god, no... It's Ash isn't it?"
"Theo?" she asked in trepidation, her heart in her mouth.
"He was on the list, but Rusty said when he saw it, he cracked out
laughing and said, if whoever had named him had seen what he was up to with one
of the girls who did the catering at Aunt Claire's party last year, they'd
never take him for a queer, not no way!"
"And they believed him?"
"But of course. Even for a relative, a Warrior wouldn't imperil his
immortal soul by telling a lie, now would he?" Rufus said, spoiling
the effect with a broad wink.
"Hm, bull-shitting seems to run in the family," Maxine observed.
"Anyway Theo's in the clear for the time being, but it depends on what
Ash says? I don't know if they've picked him up yet, but Josiah Fischer--
"Josiah Fischer?" Maxine's face took on a venomous scowl.
"Ash said he's been watching him."
"Yes. He was keeping a discreet eye on him."
"Discreet? He was about as inconspicuous as a wasp on a wedding
"Well it seems to have had the desired effect - initially at least. He
said Ash had been holding hands in public with a red-haired girl - can't think
who that might be, can you? But it didn't get him off the list."
"Wait. Are you saying Josiah Fischer-- "
"Is one of us? Yes."
"And just who are 'Us?'"
"That, young lady, is something you don't need to know. Like I don't
need to know what you get up to through the Stargate."
Somehow, this came as no great surprise.
"They've been working on this for a long time, haven't they?" she
asked. "The Warriors, I mean."
"Yes. Project Hell's Gate has been running for a year now - just
information gathering. Now they're beginning the active phase. Some big wheels
have come in from out of state to kick things off, so we've no info on
"So what about Ash?"
"He's one of the first group - they're dealing with them in batches of
three - spins out the terrorization effect - drives people back into the
churches and makes them give up their evil ways. Don't know when Ash's due to
be picked up - tonight or sometime tomorrow, I think. They may have him
already, Then he'll be... processed."
"You mean tortured?" Maxine groaned.
Rufus dropped his head. "They'll want names of other homosexuals if
possible, failing that a confession of sodomy."
"So Theo's still in danger." It wasn't a question.
"Yes. Then it gets worse. On Sunday night... On Sunday night..."
Rufus could hardly get the words out. ...On Sunday night - at midnight -
they're going to be executed."
"How?" Maxine whispered.
"Burned at the stake."
"Oh dear god, where?"
"Somewhere up above Cheyenne Mountain - to light a beacon of holiness
that'll be seen all over the city. They're using an SGC transport wagon to take
them up there."
"Do 'Us' know where they're being held till then?"
"Not yet. But we need to hit these bastards and hit them hard."
"What do you want me to do?"
"We're probably going to need a medic-- "
"Timmy Flint! She'll be up for it."
"We've got C4 but we could always use more. We might also need someone
to - um - lure the Kellermanns away."
"What? You know them?"
"One of them. Major Reuben Kellermann. Nasty piece of work. He's been
drafted in as our team leader while J's out of commish. Yeah, and Luc knows
something about him too. He freaked out big time when J told us the good
"He's not-- "
"No way! I get the impression he's a bit of a philanderer given half a
chance. Bit like you, then..." Maxine grinned. The grin faded. "But
there's definitely some big stuff between those two. Nothing he would tell me
either." She sighed. "Well, I'll go and see Luc - he's nearest - and
Theo. Hm, and I'll look in on Timmy on the way. She'll be off duty now - oh and
there's something I might need later on," she added, going into her
bedroom for something.
"I'll take you," Rufus called. "I think I ought to vet this
philandering friend of yours."
Timmy was ready, willing and able. She knew what it was like to be on the
wrong side of the Warriors, she said.
When Maxine and Rufus arrived at Luc's, they found Theo there too. The pair
had been dozing in the living room.
Maxine hugged Theo. "It's the Warriors! They've got Ash!"
Theo's strained expression said that this was not news.
"We know," Luc groaned.
"And you never told me! Because I'm a woman? Is that it? The weak link?
My place is either in the kitchen or the bedroom?"
"No!" Luc exclaimed. "It's not like that. I've
already lost one woman I loved to those bastards. I'm not losing
two! Um. That didn't come out quite right. I love you yes, but like a
Maxine smiled. "Ok, guess I'll have to let you off. This time."
"I'll consider that a caution," Luc said with a rueful smile. He
shot a questioning look at Rufus.
"Oh sorry. This is my father, Rufus Pepperday. Dad, this is Luc."
"Yes, and you, young man can keep your hands off my daughter..."
It was dark by now, so Rufus insisted they try and get some sleep. It would
be easier to search in daylight, he said and they didn't want anyone asking
questions about what they were up to in the middle of the night. They
would also think better if they were fresher.
"Yes, that's what we were doing when we got woken up... " Theo
Most of the day was spent in a fruitless, and for Theo, very frustrating
search for Ash. They knew he was definitely not off-world. Everyone knew
Ash at the SGC and in any case, it would have been logged if he'd gone to WPX.
The members of SG-24 had gone into the mountain early on for other reasons
besides making sure that Ash hadn't been there.
They'd gone to put J in the picture, naturally, as well as to check that he
was progressing as anticipated. This also provided cover for their being in th
SGC. Their more practical reason for being there was to collect their zats from
their lockers and their black BDUs. Maxine also took her spare zat for her
father to use if necessary.
Late in the day, with sun slowly disappearing behind the
mountains, Rusty got word that Ash and a few others were being held in a cellar
under the Westbourne Road Baptist Church. Rufus wouldn't let Rusty risk blowing
his cover, and packed him off back to Aunt Dido's. Rusty was disappointed, but
smart enough not to argue about it. He was playing a dangerous game and he knew
Rufus rounded up the rest of the gang in the rust-bucket he was currently
driving. He parked up round the corner off Westbourne Road and out of sight of
the church. Like shadows, the group made their way to the church.
Maxine appointed herself the team's spy. Rufus was inclined to disagree
until she disappeared in front of him.
She was glad she hadn't gotten around to cutting the material up yet. J had
been right about putting it to a better use. It could easily be joined together
again though, she surmised, though it would be a little smaller in area. As it
was, it only hid the front of her, but the team were watching her back.
There was one guard in the first room of the cellar. He was dozing, clearly
not expecting any trouble. Maxine zatted him then returned to the porch. She
would stay and keep watch there where she could see without being seen.
From inside, faintly, came another pulse of blue light. Down in the cellar,
Rufus had tried out his zat and the guard was dead. He shone the beam of his
penlight on the guy's face.
"I know this one," Rufus said. "His name's Benjamin Phelps,
known to us as Benjy the Bigot. He was the eldest son of one of the - elders, a
Jeremiah Phelps. Know him?"
Theo lost it. He set about kicking the shit out of the body until Luc
dragged him off.
"That looked kinda personal, my friend," Luc observed.
"You could say," Theo growled, and gave Benjy a final kick in the
face. It was... satisfying - in a very nasty kind of way.
A door opposite the entrance led to another room in the cellar. It was piled
to the ceiling with split logs, bone dry. There was no green wood to provide
asphyxiating smoke to ease the victims into death. There were also nine poles
about eight feet long and shaped into points at one end. The stakes. It brought
home the reality of the evil that walked in their midst.
Rufus set about laying two charges of C4 and sprinkling kerosene on the
logs while the others went into the next, and last, room along. At the far end,
three prisoners were laid on the floor, bound and gagged and sobbing.
"Ash?" Theo cried, running to free them and followed closely by
"He ain't here," said one when his gag was removed. "They
already took him. Mike and Josh, too. Please save us," he implored
them," and please - save Mike...? He's my... my friend."
"Of course," Theo said as he cut the ropes binding them.
"You're free now, though I suggest you find a better state to live in if
you can. Out east maybe." He noted that they were only teenagers, maybe
twenty. No more. "Where have-- where have the others been taken?"
"Somewhere up on Cheyenne Mountain," another youth said.
"They said they had a truck from there too," said the third one.
"Who were they? Do you know?" Luc asked.
"The older one they called Pa, and the other two were Reuben and
"All three here. Good." In the darkness, Luc's mouth was drawn
back in a sneer. Intense hatred glittered in his eyes.
Rufus came through then and turned on the light - a single bare bulb - and
the horror of it hit them. To one side was a barrel of water. There was a
trestle table on the other side of the cellar. Wires were draped across it,
wires with electrodes on the ends. There were knuckle dusters on the table
caked with dried blood. There was blood on the floor too and some rags. No, not
rags. One was a shirt that Theo recognized. It had clearly been ripped off. He
picked it up and held it to his face - smelled the fear in it. Wiped his eyes,
then dropped it on top of the others.
"We want to thank you so much," the first youth said.
"They made us watch so we'd know what we were going to get tomorrow."
"What now?" Theo said.
"Now we blow this joint," Rufus responded gruffly.
They dragged the body of Benjy into the middle room and dumped him on the
"Anyone for a hog-roast?" Rufus quipped, but no one was laughing.
They joined Maxine outside. She'd stowed the invisibility material inside
her shirt when she heard their footsteps approaching. Didn't want too many
people knowing about it.
A figure darted out of the shadows. Rufus had set Zak and Dom on watch once
Rusty had found the right location.
"What you got?" Rufus asked.
"Several people left twenty minutes ago and five minutes before that, a
truck pulled out of the gates," Dom said. "Zak's following it. Seems
to be heading for the Mountain."
"It's them, isn't it?" Theo asked grimly.
Dom checked in with Zak who told them the route they were taking.
"Ok, Dom, take my car and collect Dr. Flint. Maxine
will direct you. Ah! No arguments, young lady. I'll take your jeep, Dom. It's
more suitable for the terrain up there."
Once Dom and Maxine were well out of range, Rufus drove a short distance and
"Theo, I think the honor is yours on this one."
He handed over the two detonators. Theo flipped the covers and hit the
buttons. The explosions were spectacular and exquisitely satisfying...
Saturday night/Sunday morning - around midnight:
It had been a cold, miserable and painful drive up to the site chosen for
the executions. Mike, Josh and Ash had been stripped naked before their
battered bodies had been loaded into the truck on top of the split logs. There
was no fight left in any of them by now. Almost they welcomed death. Almost -
but not the manner of it...
The three stakes had already been set up in a row with a couple of wooden
boxes in front for the 'Abominations' to stand on - in the event that they
could still stand - and also for the executioners to stand on when they
fastened their victims to the stakes. The whole area had twelve flaming torches
stuck in the ground in a circle to provide light to work by and later, to light
Before that happened, the Kellermanns had the three young men carry the logs
and place them around the stakes.
"Faggots to burn the faggots," Reuben jeered, "Kinda fitting
don't ya think?"
"Yeah," his younger brother agreed. Gonna enjoy listenin' to
their screams as they stand at the gateway to hell and the hotter flames
beyond!" He laughed ghoulishly.
The sound chilled the blood. It provoked Mike, the biggest of the three, to
attempt to fight back and escape. Zane Kellermann smashed an iron bar against
his legs, breaking one.
Mike was deemed to have volunteered to be the first one fastened to the
stake - with barbed wire. The Kellermanns had absolutely no intention of giving
them an easy death. Josh was fastened to his left and Ash to his right.
"Oh bountiful Lord," Simon Kellermann declaimed when they'd
finished their preparations, "accept, we pray Thee, this our gift of these
three damned souls, which we send down to the flames of the everlasting fires
of hell, that they shall no more despoil Thy wondrous world with their
vileness. And we pray that Thou will send Thy Holy Rapture to sweep us all up
to Thy heavenly realm where we may sing Thy praises for ever and ever,
"Amen," his sons responded.
Zane Kellermann set off towards the edge of the circle.
"Where're you goin', boy?" Simon yelled.
"To get the torches and send these three fuckers down to hell where
they rightly belong, Pa."
"Not yet, Zane. It's not quite midnight. Gotta wait for the Lord's Day
to begin first. Plus, we gotta wait for the press - make sure we get our
message across to a wider public, otherwise The Rapture won't come. Once upon a
time, this would've gone around the whole world in minutes, not just the local
network, or so Grandpa Kellermann told me. But we have a reporter and film
camera man coming to record the event for posterity."
"That's cool, Pa," Zane said, returning to the center of the
circle. They heard a vehicle approaching.
"Must be the press coming now, Zane," Reuben said. "They'll
want to catch the whole show, so let's let them faggots sweat a while more--
"What the fuck?!" Simon Kellermann cried out as a bright moving
light appeared in his peripheral vision.
He turned his head in its direction. It looked like a
shooting star hurtling straight for them. As the three Kellermanns turned to
watch, it continued along its path, rapidly decelerating as reached the circle.
There, it changed into a swirling cloud of vapor which wrapped Ash's whole
body in a pale, silvery-blue nimbus. He smiled. He knew now - somehow - that
help was on the way.
The misty vapor drifted slowly over to Mike. The shattered ends of his leg
bones knitted together; the lacerated skin became smooth again, and slid over
the bones leaving only a faint scar.
The light moved on to Josh and after 'caressing' him, faded away.
The distraction had given Rufus the time to drive up almost unnoticed, and
for the three rescuers leave the jeep before the Kellermanns register their
presence. As they turned to greet what they assumed was their press delegation,
three zats fired.
While the Kellermanns were unconscious, Rufus, Luc and Theo took down the
three human sacrifices. They were no longer in pain as the barbs had somehow
softened - lost their structural integrity, so it was an easy job to release
The now corpulent Simon Kellermann and his sons were stripped naked.
"Do unto others... " Rufus muttered.
They were then fastened to the stakes in place of their victims. As the
rescuers stepped back, the barbs seemed to turn into living things, sending
long, sharp thorny growths into the flesh of the Kellermanns. The pain dragged
them back to screaming consciousness, unable to fathom the abrupt reversal of
The rescuers ignored their demands to be released as they ripped up the
Kellermanns' shirts to make loin cloths to give their victims a little dignity.
Then Reuben gave a yell of relief. With his added height on the box, he could
"It must be the press comin', Pa," he cried.
"Thanks for the warning - Major," Luc grinned.
Reuben suddenly registered the identity of his nemesis. "You?!" he
gasped, knowing now that there would be no reprieve. Terror moved in and took
up residence in his face.
Luc jogged over to the circle of torches and took one in each hand. He
returned and stood in front of Simon Kellermann, looking up into his horrified
"This is for Christine, you murdering bastard!" he snarled and
drove the torches deep into the logs. It took a few moments for them to catch
Theo had collected a couple of torches and went to face Reuben. His voice
deathly cold, he said, "This is for Ash, who never did anyone any
harm." He thrust the torches into the log pile.
"I don't know who you are, guy," Rufus said contemptuously to
Zane. "I just know you're an evil bastard who doesn't deserve to live and
that's good enough for me to do this." He set fire to the pyre around the
last of the Kellermanns.
Ash was looking on unemotionally as flames grew like living things, sending
searing tendrils up the naked flesh, and the shrieks grew louder.
"God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also
reap," he yelled to them over their screams.
Luc wrapped an arm round Ash's shoulder. "Galatians, chapter 6, verse
7," he yelled, making it sound like a catcall.
Ash gave him as surprised smile.
"Catholic... Well, ex-Catholic."
"Oh. Look, could you leave Mike and Josh and me here, before these
press guys arrive. I - um - I have a plan. And could you fire your zats in the
air first? Blue lightning, kind of thing."
Luc looked puzzled but more than willing to comply. By the time the reporter
and cameraman arrived, the rescuers and the jeep were out of sight behind a
When the press vehicle rounded the corner of the track, the three young men
were on their knees, looking up at the burning Kellermanns. All they heard were
the hoarse cries of the dying and the final words of a prayer "...for ever
and ever, Amen."
"What the fuck's going on?" demanded the reporter. The cameraman
was already filming.
The three stood up and Ash stepped forward. The faint silvery-blue nimbus
had come back surrounding him in its pale glow.
"These three so-called 'Warriors of Christ' - Simon, Reuben and Zane
Kellermann - persuaded themselves that these two men and I are homosexual
abominations. Somehow, in the past, we must have managed to offend some
vengeful people who informed on us out of spite. As innocents facing slaughter
- along with many others - we prayed to Almighty God. And God had heard us. We
saw God Himself up here on the mountain."
"That was the blue glow and the blue lightning?"
"It was indeed. He healed our wounds - even Michael's leg that Zane
Kellermann broke. Then He removed us from the stakes and set the Warriors in
our places. This is His judgment and the punishment for their hypocrisy.
In fact, they were an incestuous threesome who also indulged in bestiality. God
said He looks into people's hearts and minds and can tell when they're pure,
and when they're wearing the mantle of religious righteousness to cover up the
evil within themselves. Looking like good people isn't enough. You have
to be good inside. It is not given to us to tell who is good and who is
evil just by looking. But God can! These Warriors were judged by God and
found wanting. He set the fires burning Himself and Simon, Reuben and Zane
Kellermann are now in the Hell they were bent on creating for others."
"What happens now?" the reporter asked as the cameraman kept
"Now...? We just want to go home. Um, could you give us a lift into the
Springs. We really don't want anything more to do with the truck that brought
But the cameraman wanted to carry on filming until the flames begin to die
down. It took the Kellermanns a long time to die. The reporter laughed as Simon
Kellermann's blackened shrunken head fell off into the embers.
"Hey! Brilliant!" the cameraman said cheerfully. "That'll
make a great final shot."
Another vehicle appeared and a lady jumped out.
"I'm Doctor Flint," she said. "I was told there's been an
accident. Oh, my!" Her face registered shock at the remains of the
Kellermanns. "Well, I'm afraid I'm too late for those three. It would take
a miracle to put them back together again!"
"A miracle! That's it!" the reporter exclaimed. "We got to
get back to the office, PDQ. Erm, Doctor, could you be so kind as to give these
young men a lift home?"
"Sure I can," Timmy smiled. "You know, in spite of your
'miraculously' healed injuries," Timmy said to Ash when the press men had
gone, "you are still going to need trauma therapy after this, and I'm more
than willing to have you as my patients - all three of you."
"Yeah. I think I'm probably going to have flashbacks about this for the
rest of my life, but I'm also going to remember the blessed feeling of the
light," Ash said.
The other two agreed. "As soon as the light touched me," Michael
said, "the pain from my broken leg just vanished."
"Wait, you had a broken leg?" Timmy said. "Which one?"
"This one. One of those guys smashed it with an iron bar."
"Seems there has been a miracle then, because I can see no sign-- No,
there's just a thin white line, like it happened years ago," she said,
taking a closer look.
All the gang except J, who was still tied by the heels in the infirmary, met
up at Ash's pad that Sunday evening. It was agreed that Ash was no longer in
danger. Probably. Who would try anything against him once the report had
appeared on the local press and maybe the local television news, and everyone
knew he had God's favor?
"God?" Ash said. "I think it was a little closer to
home." He smiled at Theo.
"I think so - in fact I'm certain. I suddenly felt warm and at peace
and all the pain faded. I would love to know who shopped me though. I think
Josiah Fischer is the number one suspect, don't you, Maxine?"
"Not so," Rufus put in. "Yes, his brief was to keep an eye
on you, Ash, but for your protection. We're hoping he might be able to track
down the betrayer for you, though."
"Oh." Ash looked amazed. "Well, thank you then. In fact,
thank you all. I can never begin to repay you."
"Then just pass it on," Rufus smiled. "Sooner or later,
someone'll come along who needs your help."
A wide smile spread across Ash's face. "What a great idea!"
Theo had switched on the TV for the local news. The events of earlier in the
day were the top story. Against a background of the three flaming pyres, the
nearly naked Ash told his tale.
The gushing voice-over for the cameraman's closing shot was, "this was
a miracle indeed - the Miracle of Cheyenne Mountain!"
"Some people will believe anything," Ash grinned.
"Welcome to the Bull-Shitters' Club," Theo said with gentle smile.
N.B. The Westbourne Road Baptist Church
has no connection with any real church, living or dead. Any connection with
real people, past present or future, is entirely accidental.
To anyone who believes this sort of
thing would never happen, watch this and weep:
A beautiful tribute vid about Matthew Shepard
Hell, watch it anyway and pray for a